Thursday, November 5, 2020

The "Non-Evaluative Visit" Email

Dear staff,

"We're going to be visiting your classes next week! Don't worry, though, it's "non evaluative" 😂😂😂.

We never bothered to give you feedback on your teaching practices from the last time we visited -and that was two weeks ago! Let's be honest, that's because we don't care about your teaching or your teaching practices. We could give a crap less about any of that nonsense. By now you MUST know you are nothing more than mouthy little factory workers to us. Fine you got your little "union" so we can't fire you. But this isn't Brooklyn or Manhattan. This is Queens and we don't appreciate the actual work that you claim you do at all (and just to be clear that we👏never👏will👏👏). 

This is why next week is just a quality control check. Nothing more. We only want to make sure you are doing what we tell you to do. These little SEL check ins seem important, so we'll "look" for them. We also told you to type your learning objectives into every single slide on your GooglePoint. We don't care if it takes away from the real estate on your screen. Do it! We will be looking for it!

Make sure there is evidence that you stressed yourselves out and stayed up the whole night before. This is what we truly live for. If you don't look haggard, we may just give you that "feedback" you spoiled little overgrown children were asking for -and you don't want, do you?

Because don't forget, if last year showed US anything it's that YOU are unbelievably expendable. We had no problem replacing those teachers who got out of Dodge in the middle of the semester, now did we? This is because you are expendable to us. 

So be ready for our quality control check, I mean our "non-evaluative visits" next week. And don't forget, if you don't type your lesson plan out into that Word Template we sent you (the one with the pretty little picture pictures on it), we are going to pretend you didn't have one and we will call your chapter leader and say so.  We like seeing those pictures on your lesson plans. It makes someone else happy. So don't give us any crap or else. 

Thank you

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Buyout Bill Introduced

 If you've been following the speculation here or here or here from both me and my very knowledgeable commentators, you'll know that an Early Retirement Incentive is on the horizon. I gave a brief history of ERIs here and carefully followed the terms of those past buyouts to try to gauge how this buyout would look. 

Well it's here. The Assembly version of the bill is here. And James' Eterno's piece at ICEUFT Blog is here.  James' read of the bill is:

Here are the parts of the summary Senate Bill S9041 that I think most of you would be interested in:

A member is eligible to participate in Part A of the ERI Program if he or she:

   * Is otherwise eligible for service retirement;

   * Is at least age 50 with 10 or more years of service and is not in  a plan which permits retirement at half-pay with 25 or fewer years of service without regard to age 

MPACT ON BENEFITS: Part A would provide one-twelfth of a year of additional retirement service credit for each year of pension service, up to a maximum of three years of additional retirement service credit.

Part B would allow members to retire with an unreduced benefit if they are at least age 55 with 25 or more years of service.

I welcome someone who is more versed at these matters than me to simplify it for us.

And that's actually a very good read! While I'm still going through the bill myself, it seems clear that this is a fairly complex bill. Far more complex than the ERI bills of the 1990s I wrote about a few months back. Here's what I have read so far:


a.  "Retirement  system"  means the New York city teachers' retirement system, the New York city board of education retirement  system  or  the New  York city employees' retirement system, exclusive of the retirement plans established pursuant to sections 13-156 and 13-157 of the administrative code of the city of New York.

So that's pretty much everybody. Anyone who is in a retirement system (13-156 and 13-157 is the now defunct Public Housing Police and Transit Police). If there is one I don't see, let me know in comments. 


 a person who is at
    18  least  age fifty with ten or more years service as of the effective date
    19  of retirement (other than a member of a retirement plan  which  provides
    20  for  half-pay  pension  upon  completion  of  twenty-five  years or less
    21  service without regard to age); or a member of a retirement  plan  which
    22  provides  for  half-pay  pension upon completion of twenty-five years of
    23  service without regard to age who has not accrued, excluding  additional
    24  credit  granted  pursuant  to  this  act, the minimum number of years of
    25  service required to retire with an allowance equal to fifty  percent  of
    26  final average salary under such plan, but has, with the inclusion of the
    27  additional  credit provided under this act, accrued such number of years
    28  of credit.

Just like the 90s, it looks like a 50-10. But unlike the deal in the 1990s, there is also an offer for teachers who are 55 years old and 25 years of service. 


Oh yeah. And that's gonna leave a mark:

(other than a member of a retirement plan  which  provides
    20  for  half-pay  pension  upon  completion  of  twenty-five  years or less
    21  service without regard to age)

It almost looks here like they are excluding people who were signed up for 55-25. That can't be right and I'm sure there's some other provision deeper within the bill.  

The "buy" part of the buyout?

Just like during the recession of the 1990s, they are offering one extra month of service credit for each year you worked. Have you worked for 19 years? Then they are offering you 19 months of service credit. Here's the language:

one-twelfth  of  a  year  of
        additional  retirement  service credit for each year of pension service,
        up to a maximum of three years of additional retirement service  credit.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Another "win".

On Tuesday, when not very many people were paying attention, the UFT checked another box off of it's massive "Important Agreements That Must Be Reached" to do list: What to do with teachers who have quarantined family members.

Before we get into that, let's review the agreements reached over the summer:

First, the DOE and UFT decided to make it easy on teachers who could get sick and who could die. 

The medical accommodation agreement went online and turned months into weeks. This doesn't get enough attention because it only applies to about 15% of the workforce. But that was a total heart-felt-meets-government-policy action. It typically takes months for an accomodation to go through. For many, it tooks days and it was 100% guided through UFT negotiations. 95% of the applicants were accepted and the UFT assisted with appeals for those who were denied. 

Then, the DOE and UFT decided on a composition of teachers. 

It created three teacher roles and another role called "Virtual Content Specialist. I called the job a "good deal -maybe" because, while it looks good on paper, I don't expect it to be implemented in very many schools at all. It is an enormous task and the timeframe for schools is just too short. 

In addition to that, when you peel the onion back just a bit, you may realize that school-based staff all across the city have just given up on all of the systems around them. There is a mistrust and this "mistrust" that is being spoken of about the mayor, actually extends to the DOE, all 3 major unions and even beyond. And, just like I predicted, most school communities, seeing impossible-to-understand guidelines, will just turned inward to seek their own solutions. So it's a nice deal if you can make it happen! But many schools won't be able to. 

Then the deal about this strike was reached.  

See now, I came down a bit hard on my union when I wrote

I'm sure the UFT will find the best the deal they can. I'm sure, when it arrives, that they'll assure us that it was the very best deal they could make under the circumstances. I'm sure we'll mostly be fine when we go back and I'm absolutely sure that any voices expressing dismay will be quickly quelled with the sudden magical appearance of UFT Unity loyalists on social media -folks who don't know how to defend a teacher but who sure as hell know how to ridicule them- shaming them into silence.

So I feel a little bad. Truth is the union did reach the best deal they could. They ensured that teachers can have a safe environment to go back to. They made it as safe as anyone could make a school under these circumstances. No place, during pestilence, is safe. It is ridiculous to open schools. That said, the mayor wants to open and the UFT sees their job as making sure that the policy is as fair (and as safe) as it can be made. 

Was this a sellout? Oh, no.  While I was right about those Unity loyalists, they will also be the first to remind you that the UFT never ever wanted or advocated for remote learning in the first place. That's true! The UFT never lifted one finger to try to get blended learning. All they promised was no return if we weren't safe. And they kept that promise.

Did they realize that all these teachers wanted remote learning because they are scared for their health? Yes. But they never promised anything like remote learning, did they? They only promised no return if the buildings weren't safe. That's all they promised. Well they should have known that people wanted full remote. Didn't they see all of our posts? No yeah. They saw your posts. They know what you wanted.  If you wanted more than that, move to Chicago or LA, where that union refuses to let its members go back until this virus has ended. Here in New York, we were given no such union and we were given no such promise. Suck it up people. It's only September and like I said: Promise delivered. 

Now the deal for teachers who need more accomodations at home.

And that leads me to this week's very quiet deal. The DOE quietly updated their personal memorandum on September 1st. It includes a lot of help for people who have "symptoms" but have not tested positive for COVID. It Those folks get 2 weeks without dedication to their CAR. So, they can be sick, under care awaiting a test with no deduction to the CAR (don't forget, those CAR days are our compensation that is deferred for other things, like a day off. So not losing those days is a lot like not losing a day's pay. I'm not sure if you have work remotely during that time or not. That's something you'll have to look into. There is a link to the document here. 

And if you have a child care issue, the DoE is offering an application for 2/3 pay through the same memorandum. 

It's Labor Day. These things don't just happen because the sky is blue. They happen because there was a union saying "no". 

I say "win" because the better win would have been to keep school's closed until at least indoor dining and in-person classes at college resume (I teach high school. That's a bit easier for me to say). But, without that, the UFT (who is about to use its pension fund -the strongest in the US- to save New York City with a big fat loan) did it up pretty well. 

Update: Solidarity's attempt at an injunction got more press today. These 5 teachers were very brave to put their name on a lawsuit. And Lydia, who raised the funds and worked with Bryan Glass developing the petition has done yeoman's work there.  To date, no caucus has chosen to work with Solidarity on this and one, MORE, actually turned down Solidarity's invitation to work on and file an injunction as joint entities. I'm not sure what more proof you need that all union caucus' are terrible, but if you do need more proof, I'd be happy to break it down in painful detail.  

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Solidarity Lawsuit Strategy: Expand Reasonable Accomodations

Gothamist reported on UFT Solidarity's Lawsuit yesterday. In short, the caucus is going to court to argue that the DOE's "Reasonable Accommodation" should include people who have at-risk family members at home at home. From the report (I'm heavily editing):

Several New York City teachers will ask a state judge to keep schools fully remote for the upcoming semester and expand the criteria for instructors to teach from home, arguing that it's still too risky to bring students and teachers back into classrooms while the danger of the pandemic still exists. 
... hope a judge forces the DOE to agree to expanding the Reasonable Accommodation Request criteria—a set of DOE-approved medical conditions that allow impacted teachers to work from home instead of a classroom with the belief their conditions could worse if they return to school. 
The filing of an injunctive relief was brought by UFT Solidarity, a subset group within the UFT that's criticized the school reopening plan and the narrow. 
"It excludes certain groups of people, including people who are cancer patients, people who are parents of small children, who may have opted to go remote," said Lydia Howrilka, a teacher and organizer with UFT Solidarity. "People like myself who are caregivers of elderly parents and guardians who unfortunately will be putting our loved ones at great risk if we were to come into work. Educators have been given this Hobson's Choice of choosing between their livelihoods and their health."
Solidarity launched a successful GoFundMe to raise the funds needed to pay Bryan Glass' fees. 

The full article from Gothamist is here.

Monday, August 31, 2020

UFT Sets Negotiation Deadline As Solidarity Caucus Files Injunction Tomorrow Morning

<stops eating doughnut>

For the first time in 18 years, the UFT's Executive Board authorized the leadership to call a strike vote. The unanimous vote from the 300+ member Executive Board specifically authorizes UFT leader to EITHER conclude negotiations OR ask for a strike vote from the union's  Delegate Assembly. The DA is set to meet tomorrow afternoon and will be inclined vote for whatever the leadership asks.

Today's vote came after a long day of unanswered questions with the anti-union members of the press reporting that UFT President was talking to members of the business community (and that Mulgrew did not at all look like he was about to go on strike), while members of the actual union openly expressed frustration and resentment at being used as pawns in someone else's game (see tweets below).

The vote allows the union leadership to do pretty much what every leadership has been doing since the start of this pandemic: Whatever they hell they want and, while it leaves school teachers across the city waiting one more day to learn the outcome of the game that is being played, one caucus leader and long-time union activist received a one-line reply to his long, detailed email from a high ranking UFT official late in the day:

Thank you for sharing ...


To date seventy (70) school staff members have lost their life due to the spread of COVID
To date zero (0)  union staffers and officers have lost their life due to the spread of COVID.

I, for one, am grateful to know there is someone with whom I can share my thoughts.

(Editor's Note. It was nice to learn ... from the anti-union press .. via a talk with business leaders ..... that we probably we may not have to go on strike. I like not going on strike. It's nice. Truth be told, this whole pandemic has taught me that unions should be like a good expensive balsamic vinegar; always there in pantry incase you need it, but never on your mind until you do. And let's face facts, when the chips are down, the UFT is more than happy to oblige).

In the meantime, the Solidarity caucus is filing an injunction in court in the name of five of those pawns .. actual school teachers in New York City .. who will put their families at risk of extreme sickness or death should they return to work. From the Solidarity Press release:

Alarmed at what they have concluded is a dangerous and unsustainable safety plan, public school educators affiliated with the second largest caucus of the United Federation of Teachers have begun efforts that they hope will lead the largest school district in the nation delay a return to in-person instruction “until the City of New York has determined it safe to conduct indoor activities and the State of NY has removed all bans on large group events, as per Executive. Order No. 202.3 filed by Governor Cuomo from March 12, 2020.” The Solidarity Caucus helped fundraise for this litigation through small donations from other UFT members and community members using GoFundMe. At present the caucus has fundraised over $5700. They have retained Bryan Glass, a well-known and respected labor and education attorney in the New York region.

I'm sure the UFT will find the best the deal they can. I'm sure, when it arrives, that they'll assure us that it was the very best deal they could make under the circumstances. I'm sure we'll mostly be fine when we go back and I'm absolutely sure that any voices expressing dismay will be quickly quelled with the sudden magical appearance of UFT Unity loyalists on social media -folks who don't know how to defend a teacher but who sure as hell know how to ridicule them- shaming them into silence.

<goes back to eating doughnut>

Thursday, August 27, 2020

UFT Scores A Pretty Good Deal -Maybe

It's all over the internet today that the UFT and DOE finally reached an arrangement about working conditions. On the not so good side, it's fairly complicated and there is a short period of time to (re)create school schedules around it. On the plus side, it reduces the class size by 1/3 and makes sure remote only teachers and blended teachers aren't given any extra work to do. 

You really have to read the full MOA in order to understand this work place rule thing. The DOE and UFT had a major challenge: how do the blended students learn on days they are not in. The solution was to combine every two classes of students and add a third teacher. Pretty clever! 

Under the arrangement, the schedule for three teachers would look something like this:

(Regular) Teacher 1 - 34 students (total)

(Regular) Teacher 2 - 34 student (total)

(Remote Blended) 3 - 0 students. 

The remote blended teacher posts work (and does mini-lessons for no more than 30 minutes) for the 68 students (total) on the days those students are not in attendance. It's actually 68 MINUS anyone who is in school. All three teachers share all of the parental contacts and grading. 

When you look at a full high school teacher's roster, the arrangement looks more like this:

(Regular) Teacher 1 - 170 students (total)

(Regular) Teacher 2 - 170 student (total)

(Remote Blended) 3 - 0 students. 

The remote blended teacher posts work (and does mini-lessons for no more than 30 minutes) for the 340  students (total) on the days those students are not in attendance. It's actually 340 MINUS anyone who is in school. All three teachers share all of the parental contacts and grading. 

Many folks are on social media crying about the 'remote blended teacher' actually has 68 students per class and 340 students total. This isn't true. Those folks obviously aren't math teachers and, in their frustration, they have invented 340 extra students. They misread the rules. It's as simple as that. 

In the meantime, the Remote Blended Teacher position is the premiere role to go for when you get back. I mean, they really should let you stay home but that's a whole other conversation.  For now, remote blended teachers work out a schedule with their supervisor. They are set up in a classroom of an office. They do their 15-30 minute 'mini-lessons' every day and they grade only 1/3 of the work. 

For those who really 'get' the system in the DOE, that remote blended teacher spot is for you. Oh, yes!!

Don't like tech? That's fine. The regular blended teacher gives work and mini lessons for 340 students but only scores/grades work from less than a usual teacher roster. So that's a but easier as well. 

'Would any of this work in my school? Um .. no. Most of my admins are just don't have the skillsets to manage something like and the one who is far too busy. Also the teachers in my school are especially gratuitous and even a bit toxic. So they'll probably say something like "nah. I'll grade just my assignments". But if you're someone who knows how to assert themselves or if you're in a school with good people, then the blended remote teacher assignment is for you. '

If this plan were released in May, it would be pretty exciting. As it stands, it's released in late August and, unless the DoE compels every school to change their program (for a 4th or 5th time) to fit this new plan, then most schools will just ignore it. 

But .. if you're school can switch over and if the people in your building are knowledgeable and competent enough to willfully make the switch, then this is a pretty good plan. 

And anyone who tells you otherwise is nuts.  

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Biggest Sickout In the History of New York City

A heated presidential election?

Social unrest and turmoil? 

An Impending recession?

Unacceptable terms from a mayor who is seen as screwing it all up?

A possible New York City Teacher Strike?

I'm sure that sounds like 2020 to you.  And this year does, in fact, have all of those components. But I'm actually describing 1968. 

During that year, the sitting president announced that he wasn't going to run and the leading candidate was murdered in Los Angelos. During this same year, millions of Americans found themselves facing job loss due to an impending recession and let's not forget the turmoil of America's most famous year.  This was the same year that the mayor, John Lindsay, supported community schools at the cost of basic due process rights for teachers, causing the most famous teacher strike in New York's City history.

That strike was difficult. The union, after making the decision that they had to go (Fred Newman had been fired without due process and the community board refused to acknowledge it) needed to convince all of the other teachers (across five boroughs) to walk out as well. Most did. We didn't lose due process.

That strike lasted for 36 days. This one won't last that long. 

I would imagine teachers in 1968 showing up, picketing around their school during their ninety-minute or two-hour shift, maybe attending an end-of-day rally and going home. Between those appearances, they probably had to scrimp for food and gas in the car and then call all of their friends when they got home to find out how their day had went. When it was all over, teachers had to make up those days for no money. They worked the day after Thanksgiving,  the day after Christmas, the day after New Years and missed most of the vacation days just because the terms of the settlement included making up for the lost days. 

That generation had it rough. 

Ours? Eh ....

Look, the last prediction I made was that they would close schools and that was right. So let me make another prediction: There *will* be a job action next month. They mayor (who, like Lindsay is a 'profile in weakness'. he micromanages. He bickers. He pits subordinates against each other and, after seven years of dealing with the governor's pettiness,  rarely communicates outside of what has come to be a very tight circle) will not avoid opening schools. He promised a nurse in every school, but he didn't say when.  He promised everyone would be safe, but he he hasn't said how. And let's not forget, a lot of people got sick because he kept those buildings open last Spring. But he is bending over backwards to try to look as though he meeting some demands. But the UFT's demand that everyone test negative before they enter a school is one demand that he may not be able to meet. The tests are taking too long to process and, thanks to the mayor taking so long to get us to this point,  there is no way close to one million people can be tested in tine. So I put the chances for a job action of some sort at around 80% as of today.

But what, exactly, will be our action? 

Shanker had to convince thousands of teachers to get up, leave their house every day and report to their picket site. Mulgrew will be asking us to stay at home. 

Now this is for many reasons! One reason, obviously, is COVID. But another reason is that it isn't exactly illegal to tell us to not report to a place where it is unsafe. In order for the Taylor Law to be evoked, the mayor would have to file an injunction with the courts here in the city. If there isn't a hearing then, there will be one on appeal. It seems pretty clear the UFT will bring evidence that one or more schools aren't safe. And if the court refuses to issue the injunction, then it isn't exactly a violation of the Taylor Law). (Read section 210 - 212 here and see for yourself). 

But no one in New York City is stupid enough to call a teacher strike because schools aren't safe and then ask us to report to our schools to picket. It's just, I'm sorry, really, no one is that stupid. We'll all be remote picketing this time through.

All of this will happen over the period of several days, not several weeks. The mayor wants school to start. The union wants school to start. Hell, I want to school to start. We all need school to start. So here is the way it is going to go: either the mayor, or a court, will decide to keep the school buildings closed for a while longer as the city does what it should have done last Spring (its job). Once the buildings are safe, we will all (er most) go in and perform the duties that we love so much. 

But we will be in our homes while it is happening. We will be watching it on TV. We will be zoom conferencing, group texting and keeping ourselves glued to social media as it is happening (you know. Just like we all do now 😃 )

And, if my prediction is right, what will happen on September 8, 2020 (or soon thereafter), will be nothing short of the largest sickout in the history of New York City. Tens of thousands of New York educators (or more) will simply not report. Remote teachers will not log in. In-person teachers will not walk in. The buildings aren't safe. 

We will all stay home, watching all of it. The heated election, the social unrest, the slow coming recession, a bungling mayor -and our own "strike". That is how solidarity will look in the year 2020. 

And, with any luck, it will all be resolved by that (very important) Friday. 

From Gene Mann -period.

 I don't typically repost words from Unity UFT folks. (It's nothing against them. They seem like fine folks I just typically don't). But this, from Unity's Gene Mann is simply too good to not post. 

You must be aware that schools are slated to reopen with the assurances of Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Carranza that everything will be safe.  You also know that the UFT can’t accept promises as guarantees of your health and safety. (See the President Mulgrew’s letter below).

The schools cannot without adequate supplies, protocols, and testing.


If those conditions cannot be met, you shouldn’t go to work.


Even if you have been granted a medical accommodation, you shouldn’t work. 

(Your accommodation is only good until December 31st. You need to be

assured that you will be returning to a safe environment. You need to be

mindful that, if you weren’t a member of a union, you wouldn’t have been

offered an accommodation at all.)


You will be meeting with your Chapter Leader and District Representative in the next week. I’ve appended a schedule for some Queens high schools.

At that meeting you will be organizing for a series of urgent actions which may culminate in a strike, our first in 45 years.

I may be called upon to contribute to some of those meetings, as I have at other times this summer, as a strike veteran.  On those occasions folks expected that I would explain the facts and fables about striking and thereby violating the Taylor Law.

That’s the last thing I want to talk about.

This is not 1975.

This is not about wages, and class size, and building assignments.

This is 2020.

This is about lives.

I’ve spoken to some Chapter Leaders who want to survey their members.

No. (“Hey people, would you be interested in a strike?”)

We must unite around the belief that we will do anything, even breaking the law, to protect ourselves and our families, our students and their families, our colleagues and our communities.


         Chapter Leaders have asked what to say to members who won’t support us.

         In 1975 what would you have said to someone who weakened your ability to bargain for decent wages and working conditions? (You may recall Marco, in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge: “Eddie Carbone, you have stolen the bread from the mouths of my children!”)

         In 2020 what will you say to someone who says to you (without a face covering, of course) “I don’t care about you or anyone else. I’m not going to risk the possibility of a fine or other penalty and certainly not get in the principal’s bad books.”

Not printable.

         That’s where we are.  Everything else about 2020, the Year of Novel Coronavirus, has been novel.  In the past two years you have beaten back Cuomo’s Constitutional Convention and weathered Samuel Alito’s horrible opinion in the JANUS case.  Now it’s time to stand strong.

It is a matter of life and death.

Monday, August 10, 2020

UFT Group Takes Legal Action to Block Schools From Opening

In my last post, I mentioned the UFT's second largest Caucus; UFT Solidarity and the petition they have have to get schools' chancellor Carranza to resign. While taking a pass on it myself, I did link to it in the event that any reader may want to sign on.  (I'm opposed to it because I feel his equity agenda is just too important. I don't foresee the city having another school leader who is willing to speak so strongly against school segregation and I hope to see him return to that work after this crisis. But the petition has just over 1380 signatures as of this writing and, if you are so inclined, you should consider making your voice heard). 

Today comes news that the group has begun legal action to stop the opening. They will be seeking an injunction to stop the schools from opening on the grounds that the DoE has not been able to make them safe and are seeking teachers to join their legal suit:

A well-known educational lawyer is interested in pursuing legal action necessary to file an injunction against the City to prevent NYC school buildings from reopening in September. Many members are concerned about the working and learning conditions our children will be subjected to and are considering pursuing legal action. This form is to gather the names and information of people interested in the case.

Word has it that Bryan Glass is the "well-known lawyer". You won't find a single attorney with a higher profile -and a better track record for keeping the city's DoE honest- than Bryan Glass. This is an attorney who has challenged them in the city courts, the state courts and the federal courts and has won on every level. If it is true that he has agreed to look into the possibility of filing an injunction, then the group stands a very good chance of having their concerns heard in court. 

This, as well as any court action, is nothing to laugh about.

You sign up to join their legal suit on the Google Form here. The form does ask for information that some have already commented is way too confidential. I understand this. I can say this: I have seen desperate attempts of groups to collect  person's data in the past and understand the discomfort. But I know some of these folks, including where they are coming from, and do not feel this is a reason for anyone not to sign on. 

The court systems in the United States, and in New York, are the most robust anywhere in the world and can provide a powerful check on any government action. The city DoE is prevented by law from taking any action against you in retaliation for joining a complaint. If you do not feel the DoE has made it safe enough for schools to open, this may be your best and most responsible chance to do so. Some teachers prefer to avoid fear mongering wherever they can and aren't the type to attend a rally where they are asked dress up like dead people and bring along a cardboard coffin. Of that group of teachers, some of them prefer to have their grievances resolved before a court of law. If that's you, you should consider signing on to the suit.

  The ICEUFT Blog covered the letter the the group produced


Friday, August 7, 2020

Cuomo Says "Open" As Relief Bill from DC Almost Fails. Consequences?

Cuomo punted today. Instead of making an affirmative decision one way or the other, he simply held to the health guidelines and said that districts have the OK to move ahead. But the decision -including the political consequences- has been left to the mayor. The mayor is many things. Scared of the camera is one of them. So he may close yet.  Anyway if you are here, then you have probably read that story. 

The bigger news today actually comes from DC. Months ago, folks said that 'if the HEROES Act doesn't pass, The DoE won't have enough money to open". It was, according the people saying this, as simple as that. We need money. 

Well Congress' efforts ended in failure today. The HEROES Act (now known as the Republican HEALS Act) fell through today. Apparently, the deal is dead.

Bipartisan talks aimed at finding a deal on a fifth coronavirus bill collapsed on Friday, all-but-guaranteeing Congress and the White House will not be able to reach a compromise despite a steady uptick in cases and lingering economic aftershocks. 


Mnuchin said he was willing to hear “new proposals” from Democrats. But after meeting almost every day since last Monday, the GOP negotiators said there were no plans to meet this weekend, marking the clearest sign yet that they will not get an agreement.

 The White House intends to issue Executive Orders to help with at least some of the crisis ...

"[Meadows] and I will recommend to the president, based upon our lack of activity today, to move forward with some executive orders," Mnuchin told reporters.... 

Mnuchin added that the president’s orders would address expired unemployment insurance benefits and eviction protections. It would also extend the current suspension of student loan payments and defer federal payroll tax payments. Members of both parties have opposed the payroll tax cut.

What isn't being discussed is the president sending money to states to help with their budget deficits. Cuomo has said New York needs as much as $30 billion. 

So, if those people who were saying that we will not have enough money to open schools were *not* full of it, then we won't open.

If you are in that camp, I would not get your hopes up. I think those people may have been full of it the whole while. 

I would, however, point out that if there is no funding from DC, then the state and the city may be strapped for so much cash that they may ask for teachers and others to agree to help. This could mean furloughs, a loan from our pension or some other giveback -or we may face layoffs (the mayor has promised 22,000 layoffs if there was no money. Let's see if they revisit that tomorrow or Monday). This may give the union enough leverage to work out a deal to delay the opening .. 

.. and, yes, it may also mean that a buyout may be on the way .. This are the things that cash strapped governments do. So, if they were really cash strapped, these are the things that will come down the road.

... or it may not. The DOENuts moniker was thought up when things were nuts. This is way beyond nuts...

Meantime, if you are so inclined, the union's second largest group of teacher -the Solidarity Caucus- has begun a petition drive to ask the chancellor to resign. It is as gutsy a move as anyone here in New York has made and I respect it. I, myself, can not bring myself sign on just now (through all of this, I am still a general fan of his equity agenda and I do not believe another chancellor will be around championing these things for a half a generation at least). But as of this writing the petition has earned just over 1,000 signatures. 

The union doesn't operate quite like a city agency. They are duty-bound to remain within their consensus and when the second largest group of teachers in the union (as tallied from last year's election) starts making noise and drops a petition, it is no small thing (I understand a different caucus dressed up like they were dead and brought some cardboard coffins to a rally or something. That probably worked out great for a press appearance and to get more people to join. This is great but events like that generally tend not to make a dent within the union itself. A petition from the second largest caucus -personally led by the former presidential candidate Lydia Howrilka- may, in fact, change the course of the union. You can sign the petition here  And, if you are so inclined, you can read the Solidarity press release here

I have taken a deeper look into this caucus and it has a lot of good solid educators leading it and is itself a nimble strong group of New York City teachers. I'm happy to offer my own help to them and am glad that one of the leaders of the only group I will hang with,  James Eterno, is as well. They'll be fine and are going to make an impact.

Meanwhile, the petition of high school teacher (and friend to this blog) Kevin Kearns to remain in remote is still active and is moving toward 10,000 signatures. You can find that petition here


Friday, July 24, 2020

The 'HEROES' Act will Prevent Us From Suing

With state and local governments facing a financial crisis stemming from the pandemic, all eyes are on Washington in hopes that the Senate (back in session this week from a vacation) can agree on a rescue package.

The "HEROES" Act (which is actually just House's version of the bill) is celebrated as our only chance to avoid massive layoffs and drastic budget cuts. In addition to the possibility of expanded Unemployment Insurance, the bill promises federal aid to state governments and to school districts as well as help with the upscale of testing. 

The Republicans are divided over some key issues: Some want no UI. Others want no special aid going to states and still others want no flexibility of current aid used by states. 

One of the few things they all agree on? Liability Protections

Senate Republicans are proposing robust legal protections for U.S. universities, schools and businesses across the country in order to reopen without the threat of COVID-related lawsuits looming overhead, according to a portion of the draft summary of the forthcoming coronavirus relief package obtained by CBS News. 
The summary, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, includes a laundry list of legal liability protections which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has emphasized as his red line to any future COVID-19 relief support. Included in the list are temporary protection from the trial bar for schools, colleges, charities and business that follow public health guidelines and for frontline medical workers. 
"So that people who acted in good faith during this crisis, are not confronted with a second epidemic of lawsuits in the wake of the pandemic that we're already struggling with," McConnell said this week at a Louisville, Kentucky press conference. 

Democrats agree too. So,  if the rescue package succeeds, no one will be able to to sue the NYCDoE of the City of New York for exposing us to COVID. I think we all know the NYCDOE well. They'll send an email and go over procedures with school staff but when it comes to actually following CDC guidelines on a day to day basis, they'll just let their school-based staff ignore as many rules as they want and will enforce only what manages to make it into the newspapers.

In February and March, so many school-based staff were exposed to the virus that the City of New York refused to release the number. The DOE was the only city department to not offer a full account of how many people may had become sick during this time (they still refuse to release the numbers to date and the UFT isn't pushing them to do so). So, because of city and DOE negligence last the Spring, more than 70 education employees died of COVID and a literal countless amount became sick. Now, for the Fall, they will have further protection from being sued if (or when) they repeated the same negligence.

They're going to repeat the same negligence. We all know this. The  DOE and NYC in general have been famous for providing almost no leadership in preparation for the Fall. So relieving them from the burden of even having to appear in court from a parent or employee suite will spell an absolute disaster for employees and parents alike.

Hi I'm doenuts. I'm an employee.  I'm also a parent.

But if you trust the New York City Department of Education to keep you safe, without an option to sue in the event that they get you sick, then I have a perfectly good bridge to sell you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

You Can't Spitball Teaching

At some point, we are going to have to turn our attention to preparing to do what we actually get paid to do. The crescendo of voices asserting that we should only find ways to not go back may be needed but are also preventing this required turn of our attention and this is compounding the problem.

You can't spend all of this time working to convince people to not go back and then spitball teaching.

Like everyone else, I have mixed feelings about going back (I am very concerned about my health and on the other hand, I really want my life back!!). I'm angry at reporters, like the ones from the New York Times and Chalkbeat, who pretend that the data pointing to children spreading the disease doesn't exist. This is a pathetic attempt to make teachers look like they are selfish.

But it also an effective one.  A typical reader will scan the news these days and read that children do not spread the disease. This is untrue but it is repeated by the likes of the New York Times and New York Post and Chalkbeat on a routine basis. That same reader will then check their social media and find it filled with teachers launching into discussions only about how they do not want to go back. That reader will conclude that two plus two makes four; that teachers are bitching and complaining over nothing. This narrative has become destructive. And our participation in it in the manner makes us complicit. Each public attempt to figure out new ways to "not go back" chips away at our credibility as educators and increases the destruction of this narrative.

We need that credibility! The responsible voices among us have already begun to understand this and have adjusted their voices accordingly. The rest of folks need to adjust as well.  The consequence of not doing so will eventually be that no one of importance will feel the slightest need to listen to teachers when it comes to the safety of students.

To be clear these voices asserting only that we should not go back are all correct. If broadway will not open until January 3,  I see no need to risk the health of children and their families.  Frankly, I am glad some of these voices are out there at least some of the time. We need public voices correcting the out-right lies about the virus in the press, while at the same time balancing, in the most responsible of ways, the concerns of those they see around them. But those voices must exist along side the myriad of educator voices who also recognize the basic need to begin planning for it. Those discussions must exist alongside one another.

Last week, I noticed New York's most famous teacher-writer, Arthur Goldstein, have a public discussion with another famous teacher-turned school leader. "The mayor's plan .. is ridiculous" asserted Arthur Goldstein. "With careful planning, we could have [at least] a good hybrid learning plan in place" responded the teacher-turned school leader. "I'm sorry to disagree" responded Arthur Goldstein. The discussion went on and on in this manner. This is how I would I expect two educators -each representing the highest of professionalism and ideals- to engage in a discussion about this issue. It's how we all expect educators to communicate.

Some of the city's other teacher voices -folks who seem to have basic training in organizing tactics- have taken it upon themselves to use approaches more akin to salting in order to convince other teachers that it is just too dangerous to even consider anything but not returning. I've written how this is irresponsible and defies the very nature of our jobs as educators.

These people seize upon some of the same arguments that other, more legitimate, critical voices use. "The timing is too dangerous". "The plan is too ridiculously poor". "The leaders are terrible". (Again, all true).   But what separates this lot from the more respected voices is their  singular focus on encouraging others to not discuss opening schools.

These other voices embrace fear-mongering. They insist that there is simply no other discussion that can possibly be had. And these folks are using the same techniques that salesmen or union organizers use. They place themselves at the center of every discussion. They applaud new voices expressing concern. They redirect the conversations away from anything not related to the parameters that they themselves would prefer.  They incite. And then play the victim. And, yes, they ridicule any voice that does not agree with what they are selling. This is almost exactly like salting. And, while I'm not surprised to see it, I am surprised to see it used to exploit people's fears during a very dangerous time.

Again the presence of critical voices should be as welcoming as the presence of dissuading voices are disconcerting. This mayor, more than any other, responds to public pressure. And this plan to reopen must, at least, be shared so that teachers and support staff can begin planning. But, as I've written before, the insistence that we discuss only the risks around reopening -to the exclusion of everything else- will hurt students the most (as well as our own credibility and reputations as educators).

It is the collection of these other voices that will, ultimately, lead to a very high price. Parents and others are already expressing suspicions around teachers expressing concerns. They (almost rightly) see an agenda at play -to not return no matter what. And damn if they resent it.

When a former New York Times columnist recently suggested that teachers who are scared to return should "quit", the Twittersphere went wild with comments of praise for the sentiment -and comments of disgust for teachers. Much of this disgust has come from the absence of discussions around planning and preparing. These voices are, in fact, placing all teachers into a corner from which we may not come out.

And again, the harm is not in the commission of these discussions but in the omission of other discussions or actions that eventually must, by sheer necessity of the challenges we face, take place as well.  These other voices aren't just allowing teachers to ignore making actual preparations. They are actively dissuading teachers from devoting almost any public thought at all to preparing at all.

This is only the practical aspect behind the (simple) assertion that, at some point, we are going to have to turn our attention to preparing to do what we actually get paid to do.

In my last post, I asked whether we want cops patrolling the protests who had not been trained in latest policing techniques or doctors and nurses working in our hospitals who had not been trained in the latest techniques to fight COVID-19? These other voices who are out there today seem keen on one thing and one thing only: NOT giving you a moment to even think about being prepared for what happens in September. Rest assured, when September comes, these voices will have all but vanished leaving only you and your class of students and a whole lot of unaddressed questions.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Wow. It's Just Like the Athenian Plague

As the disaster passed all bounds, men, not knowing what was to become of them, became utterly careless of everything, whether sacred or profane. 

— Thucydides

I've read through the many articles and tweets from reporters, politicians and teachers alike about reopening schools in the Fall here in New York City. As the nation-wide discussion about reopening heats up, we are all being drowned in an almost binary discussion: "Is is safe to open?"

You can see this question materialize in many different ways. Some people ask "How is it safe to open?". Others ask "Can the NYCDOE make it safe to open" or "Can they keep them open?". Other folks point to any one of the many necessary effects of opening. They will point to childcare as being an essential issue around opening safely (I.E. with students attending only two to three days per week) or feel impelled to discuss the painful logistics around opening safely or ask whether they, as teachers, qualify for a medical accommodation. (One teacher, famous for defending teachers and convinced that there is no safe way to open given the circumstances, has told his colleagues that he would put in for a medical accommodation if he had a hangnail if he thought it would qualify him for it.)

These side discussions are gripping and are interesting to follow but they are all related to the one and only over-riding question that is being asked: Is it safe to open?

There is another issue -long ignored by people who devote copious amounts of time and energy to any form of media discourse. This question is just as urgent and as important as this issue of safety and the people who are discussing safety are performing linguistic feats of amazement in order to avoid discussing it.

These folks -the ones who continue to ignore this other issue-  treat it as a mere secondary matter (trivial to their own concerns around safety).  According to the track record of these folks, this other issue is worth addressing only because someone has forced them to address it.  The mayor says schools "..will have enough time prepare" and then moves on. The governor says we will ".. will have time to thoughtfully plan" and then changes the subject. The school's chancellor shifts into uniquely long winded platitudes and then, only after being pressured, provides a link. Concerned teachers -mistrustful that the city got many of us got sick during March (so many, in fact, that the city still refuses to release the data or give a full account) want their questions around safety answered -and don't trust those "damned idiots from Tweed" to address this other issue anyway.

Taken together, these folks are all slowly -but clearly- becoming just as anti-teaching as anyone from the Bloomberg days ever were.

And those folks dont just include city-wide political leaders and teachers. They include the press,  including leading reporters from the New York Times and community-driven reporting websites like Chalkbeat. They include building and district educational leaders and even many teachers.

That other issue is this: What, exactly, do you expect us to accomplish with this time when we go back?

This time we spend with children in the Fall can  be a true moment in our history where we repair damage and set the tone for the next page in this chapter. With careful planning we can set our children back on the right path toward a happy fulfilled and well-prepared life as adults, making this time in their childhood just blip.

Or we could f*ck it all up and turn it into a complete waste of everybody's time.

To the folks who don't really care about this issue (or aren't prepared, because of incompetnce, to raise it), I have a few questions. Do you expect us to teach along the curriculum as though students have not suffered enormous emotional damage from the Spring's pandemic? Did you expect us to engage in Trauma-Informed-Teaching, pretending, whenever you open your mouths, that teachers know how to do this?Did you expect us to take another three-day training on hybrid learning in our respective school buildings? Did you want us to click a link and then "PRESTO" thorough magic, it happens?

Or do you expect this challenge around planning for hybrid learning will simply vanish in the turmoil that is bound to occur in six weeks and then expect the classroom teacher -professionally alone in these very public discussions- to just work it all out on their own?

This last possibility is probably what these people hope for and is very probably what they will get. But it doesn't make them any less culpable for the damage that is about to caused to children throughout the city. That damage will be caused because these folks -on all levels- failed to carefully plan and prepare teachers for the extreme challenges we are all about to face in our classrooms under the hybrid model.

I blame them. And I will go on blaming them as this other disaster -the one that will have occured because they failed to prepare (or failed to advocate for the preparation of) teachers and school communities to thoughtfully plan for hybrid learning this Fall.

Would we want cops patrolling the protests who had not been trained in latest policing techniques? Would we want doctors and nurses working in our hospitals who had not been trained in the latest techniques to fight COVID-19? Would we want EMT workers and firefighters who had been prepared for the tasks they face?

Then why is it somehow OK to not prepare teachers?

Why is acceptable to not A) Thoughtfully plan for a brand new hybrid model and B) Be prepared to address at least some of the extreme Social-Emotional challenges students are facing (to the precise extent that state Board of Regents has required school districts to do)? Why is that OK? Is it because safety? Because the mayor sucks? Because the governor hasn't said so?

The answers I hear to these questions would add up if we weren't teachers. We are, however, teachers andso the answers do not add up.

It is a very rare moment indeed where the press and politicians, the most damaging incompetent education leaders as well as the most vocal unionists and pedagogues are all united in the same cause: Not preparing school staff for school. Yet this is exactly what has happened. Virtually every education stakeholder in New York City has allowed April and May and June, and now July, to drift on by as though the challenges we are about to face do not exist and should not be addressed. This -presenting ourselves useless and unprepared in front of children who are in dire need- is what has become of us.

It was Rumi who first wrote that "A fish rots from head down". And he was right. Our president, our governor and our mayor have all demonstrated (quite perfectly, if you ask me) that they could care less about the finer points of pedagogy and Social-Emotional Learning. But that rot has now reached the body and it doesn't seem as though there is anything that will stop it from progressing, like a cancerous plague, through the classrooms. This breakdown of work based morality (otherwise known as professional ethics) has separated us all from who we were once were and from what we once did.

Friday, July 3, 2020

That Buyout? Probably Not Gonna Happen

In my last few posts I wrote about a possible piece of legislation that may, actually, make it through the legislature to offer an early retirement incentive for teachers. These buyout ideas are always long shots, but this bill had multiple co sponsors, was introduced in both houses on the same day and had other indications buried in the wording that made it look like a real contender to be signed by the governor.

That was all before New York City finalized and ratified its budget. 

The budget -which was rumored to carry deep cuts to schools- fixed its eyes on the NYPD and on central administration for much of the cuts to education. The only way schools were directly hit were that FSF remained flat instead of growing with inflation and the rise in teachers salaries. That hurts, there is little doubt. But the majority of cuts came from non school based services.

And the mayor indicated he would seek cuts of only $1 Billion from city employees and would work with unions in order to do so. That's steep/ But it is not so Earth shattering as to require a special law allowing employees to retire early. The final analysis of the budget seems to point to a reality that things are bad right now, but the city isn't facing the dire straights many thought it would be facing back in late May.

There are those who say these cuts will be on their way if the HEROES Act isn't passed and if it doesn't offer serious help to New York State's budget. Because of this, so the thinking goes, a buyout may well be on the way anyway. Those folks are half right. We're 1975 level trouble if that bill doesn't provide relief to the state. But, since all indications currently point to that bill making it through the Senate sometime after July 20 (when Congress reconvenes) and including relief for states. So it doesn't look like doomsday is going to happen.

On top of that, the bill I noticed itself provides for a brief 30 day window for employees to file for early retirement According to that bill, that window would open on July 30 and close in August. If that window were to be made, the bill would have to be further along than it is. Checking in A10595, it is still in the Governmental Employees Committee in the Assembly. Its partner, S8599, is still in the Rules Committee in the Senate, The bills were both introduced on June 5th. They haven't' moved out of their committee and have not even begun to be scored in any meaningful way and tomorrow is July 4th. This doesn't leave the kind of time one would think for something to go through the processes and be passed and signed then prepared for employees.

There are folks who may think 'well, they could just change that date. Bills are made from words and words can be edited at any time' and, those folks are right. That could all happen.

It's just that it doesn't look like it will. As bad as it had been, I would like to think government hasn't gotten so bad that they would force a bill like that through with almost no time for people to put in their papers. There would be an outcry from every public employee in the state if not enough notice was provided.

So, the bottom line? It just doesn't look like it's going to happen.

There is still a possibility that all employees may lose 1-2 percent percent of pay through some type of  furlough scheme. A billion dollars in savings (which is what the mayor announced he would be seeking from public employees) from among the roughly 305,700 city employees is about $3,200 per person. For a top earning teacher, that is roughly 2.5% of annual pay. So furloughs, along with some other cost saving measures, may be what plugs the budget hole that is left. Not (probably) a buyout. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Haven't We Been Through Enough?

In my last post, I wrote how the early retirement incentive being debated in Albany. In short, the incentive would allow almost any public employee in the state to retire by the end of the summer if they have 25 years of service and are 55 years old. Anyone who qualifies would get up to a three year pension credit if the choose to retire early.

This is means that almost any public employee in New York who is 55 years old or older and has 25 years in will be able to retire with 28 years.  I ended the post writing that it didn't seem like. abad deal.

And it really isn't for most public employees. Typically, the retirement rules require 30 years of service and the bills currently before the Senate and the Assembly would shave five years off of that. That's a very good deal for most public employees.

It's a great deal for NYC Sanitation workers. A great deal for NYC Custodians. An amazing deal for  DC 37 members. It's just a great deal all around. 

It happens to be a terrible deal for one type of public employee: The New York City School Teacher. Why? Because an unusually small amount of city school teachers will qualify.

Many city school teachers, who would otherwise have qualified for the package, had already opted into another 25/55 retirement plan all the way back in 2008. That plan was a trade; the teacher union agreed to a merit pay scheme by the Bloomberg administration and, in exchange, a special 55/25 early retirement incentive was offered to all city teachers. Anyone who wanted could opt in, pay a small amount from each check (1/85%) and, by the time the reached their 25/55 threshold, could retire. Teachers have been reaching their 25/55 threshold, and have been retiring under the plan ever since. (In 2019, around 8,500 city teachers retired. Many under this plan (see page 139)).

The 2008 deal wasn't made to all public employees. It was only offered to school teachers of New York City. 

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is poised to approve a deal that would sweeten retirement incentives for New York City teachers, a move that their union and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg support but that budget watchdog groups say is financially risky.
Because Mr. Bloomberg has agreed to the measure, which would allow teachers to retire five years earlier than they can now and still receive full pension benefits, Mr. Spitzer is likely to sign it, according to an administration official who did not want to be identified because no final determination had been made.

And because of this, city school teachers will benefit least from the incentive that is currently being debated in Albany (see my last post here for a link to the bills in both houses of the legislature). 

So when I said 'not a bad deal', I was wrong. This is a pretty bad deal for New York City teachers.

Haven't we been through enough? The Post -The NY Post- has even caught on to how bad city teachers have been hurt over the past few months, noting that teachers haven't even been informed of how many of us were exposed to COVID back in March. City teachers had to petition to even have our schools closed in the middle of the month and almost everyone I know does not trust in the processes of the city school system to adhere to CDC guidelines next Fall. Now they face a retirement incentive that will incentivize precisely (or very very close) to no one who teaches in New York City.

Friday, June 26, 2020

--->Early Retirement Bills Are Now Taking Shape in Albany<--

Last post, I wrote about the possibility of a buyout so teachers could retire early. These buyout plans are now taking shape in Albany, with one particular plan looking like it has lots of support from both houses.

The Assembly has had bills around for months, some since last year. Many of these had been recently dusted off due to the crisis but, up until recently, the Senate had only one -a paltry looking bill that did nothing for Tier II employees.

These days, nothing that we see on the New York Senate or Assembly website are very trustworthy. Albany has become very opaque and the governor's achievement of emergency powers has accelerated this "behind closed doors" trend. So it is important understand that, due the extreme secrecy in Albany, none of these bills may amount to a hill or beans (which I think is nuts and should anger everyone, but ..  I digress).

Having said that, the recent addition of new bills has all the markings of a serious piece of legislation. In the Assembly, the bill is A10595. It's matching bill in the Senate is S8599 . The Assembly version has been re-published on the Senate website here. The bill as it appears in both houses was introduced on the same day (June 5) and have multiple cosponsors. (In the legislative world, these are significant markers that bill has some juice to it).

The bill offers an Early Retirement Incentive to almost every public employee in the state (as long as the employer chooses to offer it) who is ... 55 years of age or older and (that's *and* everybody. Not *or) has 25 years of service in the retirement system.

For those folks .. folks who make the 55/25 threshold, the state would offer up to three years of pension credit (1/12 of credit for every year served up to three years).

So, if you make the threshold .. if you're 55 and have 25 years in, you may be able to retire with no penalty and with 28 of service in. This is a no brainer for some people who fit the bill.

I said almost. Looks to me like employees of CUNY are explicitly exempt. Take a look for yourself.

3 years credit

Not a bad deal.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Teacher Buyout! ... ?

Buckle up.

Cuomo's departure from his daily COVID briefings allows him and the state's top leaders to focus on the other pressing issues of government. Those issues include long overdue social justice, finding a way to grow the economy after the COVID collapse and finding ways to plug to the $61 Billion dollar hole in the state budget. The governor still has huge emergency powers at his disposal and will probably decide each and every item associated with these challenges himself (and he'll be doing it behind closed doors and away from the press).

One such item that must be decided? A buyout: An Early Retirement Incentive for NYS, and in particular, NYC  teachers. The UFT president indicated that every single public employees union in New York City has asked for an early retirement incentive this year in order to help balance the New York budget and avoid any layoffs (retirement shifts a teacher's salary burden from the budget to the pension system, thus alleviating the burden on the budget). Early retirement is absolutely not a guarantee and almost any talk about it would be a little distracting. But a quick look back into history, just to review how both of those incentives looked, is definitely worth a. little time.

(I used the NY Times website to look these up. You may need to be logged in to view these links).

Two Buyouts

There were two early retirement incentives during the 1990s. One was offered in 1991 and another in 1995. These could serve as pretty good points of reference because both came as a result of enormous city and state governments budget deficits similar to what the city and state are facing today.


In 1991, an early retirement incentive was offered to any teacher who was 55 years old *or* had 30 years of experience. Those folks (and only those folks) were able to get three years of retirement credit added to their pension. Teachers had just 4 weeks -between June 5th to July 5th-  to decide to retire by September. Here's what the Times wrote about it back then:

"Under the retirement plan, teachers who are at least 55 years old or have at least 30 years of service who choose to retire by July 5 can have a maximum of three extra years of service added to their pensions.
... A 55-year-old elementary school teacher who worked for 25 years would, upon retirement, normally get 50 percent of her last year's salary plus 1.7 percent more for each year of service beyond her 20th. Thus her pension would amount to 58.5 percent of her last year's salary...
With the incentive, the teacher would get credit for three more years at 1.7 percent a year -- a total of to 63.6 percent of her final year's salary."

That buyout eventually lead "... 4,200 teachers and 700 principals and supervisors ..." to retire early -about 8% of the teaching corps and just over 12% of the money used to pay teachers (because, don't forget, old teachers cost more to pay). It led to some teaching vacancies the following Fall.

But it's worth noting that this also led to an increase in the number of school leaders who were women and who were persons of color and, to that end, represented a very real turning point in the process of who led city schools. Eventually, the city did hire roughly 2000 new teachers for the Fall and that helped to create a younger teaching corps for the city. (A younger teaching corps in our time of 2020 would almost certainly guarantee the creation of a more diverse teaching corps; more folks who are persons of color and less folks who are white). 

The 1995 buyout was open to anyone who was over 50 and had at least 10 years of experience

"Under the plan, retirees get an extra month of service credit for each year they have worked, up to a maximum of three years. A teacher who had worked for 24 years could take the incentive and walk away with two extra years of credit toward the pension [retiring with 26 years of service toward their pension]. So far, those who have are taking early retirement are typically 55 or older, make about $60,000 and have at least 20 years of experience, board officials said."
While open to anyone over 50, the buyout was really geared toward anyone who was older than 55 and had at least 25 years in the system. It just didn't make much sense for very many others to take advantage of. The 1995 buyout agreement came along with a guarantee of no layoffs for three years and it's estimated that around 3,200 teachers took it. We have a much younger teaching corps in 2020. It would be interesting to see if something like this would work.

There are other issues to think about as well. Both incentives came during a budget climate that left both city schools and the teacher union with deep scars that lasted for more almost a decade.

Also; both buyouts saw teachers who did not qualify for the incentive return to a very difficult environment in schools. With no budget money beyond basic salaries and very little opportunities for the children they teach beyond regular classes (which, themselves, were badly underfunded), the following school years held little prospect for anything beyond the bare minimum of educating. I don't suffer bare minimum very well and many teachers who work well into the night don't either.

In both cases, the teachers who were left also faced the very real possibility of painful layoffs. In order to avoid layoffs in 1991, teachers voted to take a pay cut of 1.5% of their salaries, in the form of  a loan, to help the system balance its budget. That money was to be paid back in later years. In 1995, the UFT negotiated a no layoff agreement for three years, but then negotiated a contract for 0% wage increases and faced a near insurrection from among their members as a result. All that for no layoffs (and, in 1991, for the guarantee that the buyout would be supported by the head of the NYC school system).

And there was other fallout. In 1995 (a year that was, surely, a mess for city schools), the UFT was left with a large portion of angry teachers who, not qualifying for the buyout offer, became more active within the union. Many of those teachers organized a "vote no" campaign against that 0% contract -and won. At the end of the day, the budget woes caused the largest (by number) and longest (by years) anti-leadership movement in the teacher union's history. That movement has still not settled down to this day. That's how deep the damage was in 1995.

So, if a buyout is offered in 2020 -and it may not be offered at all- it may resemble either of these incentives. Would either of these work for you? Neither of them work for me.

If you were you around during the 1991 or 1995 incentives and feel like I missed something, drop a comment and let me know. I'll update in the main section.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Schirtzer: Our North Is Democracy

Engraved Compass - You Are My True North - Gpb26012 - PetLoveGift
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Every week, I keep up on the UFT through Arthur's blog. He posts his Executive Board notes. on Mondays. This week, something caught my eye. Teacher unionists and friend of the ol' doenuts blog, Mike Schirtzer, who has been working fairly closely with the people in the union lately, rose to urge the UFT to stay democratic.

Schirtzer--Understand reasons for motion, but we're in uncharted waters. We need to set compass north, proceed with caution. Our north is democracy. Thankful for UFT,. Let's not sacrifice what we do. Points of order can be messy and time-consuming, but we will get to the other side stronger. Best to do is start a process with emails and a clearing house. Even with the struggles facing us, we have to keep democracy in place.

This caught me as kind of odd. So I called Mike. He didn't pick up but I called around some other friends and, as it turns out, the union had put some changes into the processes of how they meet, speak, debate and vote on some of their public resos. The crisis has been tough on getting those type of things done.

The changes are detailed and, frankly, boring, but are related to changing from Robert's Rules of Order to something that may work better with the tech that is at people's disposal. Apparently, the tech can't support things like adding amendments or speakers for or against so the UFT had to make some changes.

This didn't rub fans of democracy very well (I actually can't blame them either) Challenging times are challenging exactly because doing things the right way s exceedingly difficult --during challenging times. Schirtzer's suggestion of finding other ways to set up a process of handling amendments and the like reflected a commitment to Democracy that he must have felt needed to be pointed out.

From what I heard, Schirtzer (who, I hear, was granted the floor by the Staff VP! pretty impressive stuff right there) basically said "Democracy is who we are. I'm here  on EB because of who we are and we need to find ways to remain ourselves". That took guts! And Schirtzer has plenty of those.

"We're in uncharted waters. Let's keep our compasses facing true north. Our North is Democracy". That needs to be said a lot more. It's comforting to know that one of the only places I have seen it said is over at the UFT.

Way to go, Schirtzer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

For Chaz

One week ago, he was writing about how the DoE needed to reduce administrative costs, instead of school budgets.

Six years ago, he took the time to graciously endorse endorse me for a city-wide elected position with the union.

And over ten years ago, after being handed ridiculous accusations by a principal and spending far too long in the rubber room, he started to write one of the most widely-read EDU blogs in the city.

A villain to some, but an outright hero to many, Chaz blazed a trail for finding, then calling out malfeasance anywhere he could in the DoE. And, despite many retaliations, and an almost permanent assignment to the ATR (teachers' version of "traffic duty) his voice was a source of consistency that spoke clearly and did not mince words:  The shit-show that occurs in city schools is not the fault of teachers but the result of a system plagued by largess and terrible leaders who had no business leading places where children could learn.

You didn't have to know Chaz to be inspired by his acts. The positions he took on his blog had the effect of making almost any reader brave enough to stand and to articulate that the narrative being pushed -that all of the failures of children since the turn of the century were because of teachers- was complete bullshit. His writing made you feel brave enough to say in any arena.

Outspoken from the start, and forthright to his core, the blogger Chaz never backed away from asserting what he felt was right.

The EDU bloggers in New York City are a very small community of educators. We're all classroom teachers. not one of us is a guidance counselor or a school admin or any one of those fancy programmers. We've all spent multiple decades actually teaching. And, because we all work so hard, we see how small of a voice the actual teachers in this system have. We all approach that voice in different ways. Arthur does it with pure intelligence. Norm does it by documenting, over four decades, the comings and goings of the DoE's teacher union. Patrick, my favorite, uses a command of the language of such a high caliber that I have never seen before. I try to use Horatian Satire. Chaz' style of blogging was to call it all out. Chaz was the guy who would find a terrible caricature of whichever depart of ed figure or policy he was redressing and call it out for what it was. It didn't matter to him if he had said that the principal selection process was terrible. If he found an example of a terrible principal (and there were many) Chaz would remind you.

I understand he was an outspoken man, one who had the tenacity to stand by his convictions no matter the professional cost. I was glad to learn that he had retired and had mastered the complexities of the retirement system in the same manner he had mastered the complexities of the DoE. I was shocked to read today that he had passed. The selfish loss I feel as a blogger is far outweighed by the loss that I know all teachers have just experienced. We are just at the moment where we (teachers) really needed a voice like his -calling out BS whenever he saw it and never apologizing for it.

And in between those two gravities is a man, himself with a family and a life to be concerned with,  who helped teachers with his strong and far reaching voice for well over a decade.

The essayist Thomas Lynch once wrote, "The facts of life and death remain the same. We live and die, we love and grieve, we breed and disappear. And between those existential gravities, we search for meaning, save our memories, leave a record for those who will remember us.”

Eric "Chaz" Chasenoff left quite a record and many of us will remember him because of it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

The Passing Of Chaz 1951-2020 Age 69

I am the son of Chaz and like to inform you that he passed away this afternoon from the COVID virus. My father passed in peace beside his loved ones. We are hoping to have a memorial service for him once we are able to, but for now we are going to have a small private family funeral. Thank you all for reading his blog, following him all these years, and the support you gave him. Thank you.